Bacteria are one of the most abundant and widely studied microorganisms in soil. Microbiologists estimate that one teaspoon of soil can contain up to as many as 1-100 million individual bacteria and a hectare can contain up to 10 billion.
The role of fungi is unparalleled in soil health. It is one of the most important groups of micro-organisms in the decomposition cycle and is probably one of the most resilient too.
Microorganisms like fungi and bacteria use the carbon, nitrogen, and other nutrients in organic matter as food in order to obtain energy to survive. Microscopic soil animals like protozoa, amoebae, nematodes, and mites feed on the organic matter, fungi, bacteria, and each other for the same purpose.
When livestock farmers manage their pasture soils in a manner that supports soil health, in association with good grazing management practices, the result is soil that has the ability to convert carbon dioxide and methane gas into stable forms of carbon in the soil.
The carbon in plants is then transferred to the soil when plant roots and vegetation die and are incorporated into the soil by microorganisms in the soil.
The challenge for farmers is sieving through all these techniques at their disposal and finding that one technique which they understand and identify with – one which is simple and informative enough for them that they would be able to use the results and implement directed management practices on their farm.
The soil’s ability to hold nutrients is very closely associated with yield potential. Soil management practices that aim to improve cation exchange capacity guarantee higher and cost effective production.
Soil fertility is the soils ability to provide essential nutrients in sufficient quantities as required by the plant. A soil that has a high bulk density will not be able to provide nutrients in sufficient quantities, because bulk density influences the soils ability to infiltrate and store water.
Carbon in the soil is stored in an organic (or passive) form and an active form. The difference between the two is that the active carbon form is readily available as a food source for microbes, whereas the organic form replenishes the active form and is not readily available to all groups of microorganisms.